Paid Search…aka Search Engine Marketing

In a nutshell, there are 2 different types of search engine marketing (SEM), organic, and paid. Organic search engine marketing is made up of the natural, unpaid search engine algorithms. Paid search engine marketing is the exact opposite, meaning your company will pay the search engine to have your website displayed on the results page. The rate you pay is most commonly determined by how often your advertisement is clicked on or viewed. These paid SEM ads are displayed in a ‘sponsored’ section on the search engine, therefore thats how you know they’re different from the organic searches. In a study done by HubSpot, 70% of links that are clicked on are organic, while only 30% of links clicked on are paid.

That statistic might make you believe that it’s a waste of time and money to deal with paid SEM, but it’s not! Say your website isn’t ranking well among your competition and among the right keywords, paid search engine marketing is a great way to buy yourself to the top so get noticed. A big mistake that – usually small – businesses will make with paid SEM is that they think that’s all they have to do and they’re done. Rather, they should be using paid SEM as a way to have a better online presence, while still working at their search engine optimization, and ranking higher in organic searches. Search engine marketing should never replace other marketing efforts, it should instead amplify your marketing efforts to give your company a better internet presence.

Here are a few great ways that paid search can help your business:

  1. Landing Page Testing: by having your website link in a sponsored section of a search engine, you can test 2 different landing pages, say 2 separate offers, or you can test the same offer on 2 different landing pages. The latter is a form of A/B testing, and by sending users to 2 different landing pages, with 2 different layouts, but with the exact same offer, you can see which page will result in more conversions.
  2. Finding New Keywords: Through the help of Google Adwords, you can generate a “Search Terms Report” that will show you all the keywords for which your ad was displayed to the user. This report will also give you the performance of each keyword, meaning those keywords that rank high should be added to your campaign, while those that rank low should be reconsidered. The keywords shown in the results are the keywords that users are actually putting into the Google search bar – so they are extremely crucial to your search engine marketing campaign. This report will also show the number of clicks, percentage conversion rate, and how much that keyword will cost to add to your campaign.
  3. Getting in the Game: This is the same as saying you need to know your competition and know how you rank among them. Get yourself in the game, and utilize all keywords that you can, no matter how broad, as long as they are still relevant in order to rank among your competition.

Paid search engine marketing doesn’t work alone, so you need to use it along with other inbound marketing efforts. Maximizing your coverage on a search engine results page is a great goal for your company, and you can do that through organic and paid search engine marketing. What’s great is when you have organic AND paid search results on the same page instead of different pages. Being able to establish your company as a leader is an amazing goal to have and to reach, and a combination of organic and paid SEM can get you there.

Like I’ve mentioned before, the 3 main components of successful paid search engine marketing includes keywords, ads, and landing pages. You need to make sure you match all of these, keep them consistent with one another, and optimize them all to the best that you can. The right keywords will take users to a results page containing your ads, and when they click on those ads they will be taken to your landing pages. Paid SEM doesn’t work without these 3 requirements.

When running a paid search engine marketing campaign, the most common way to pay for this is through pay-per-click, or PPC. Pay-per-click is a much more cost effective method as opposed to pay per thousand impressions (CPM). The only reason you’d want to use CPM over PPC is to just increase your brand awareness and increase your share of voice. However, when you’re actually trying to make conversions, PPC is your best bet to save money and have the campaign matter. Through PPC, you only pay Google for the advertisement when your ad is actually clicked on (not just when it’s seen or when a mouse has scrolled over it). You could have 100,000 people see your ad on their results page in one day, and if only 10 people clicked on it, you only have to pay for those 10 instead of the 100,000 who saw it. This payment method will save you lots of money. And who doesn’t like saving money whenever they can?

The actual cost of paying per click through Google is based on an auction style method. You have the highest bidder all the way down to the lowest bidder. The highest bid (let’s say $6) accounts for the top, most visible spot, while the lowest bid (let’s say $3) accounts for the lowest, least visible spot. The bids in between follow the correct ranking in order. This isn’t the actual price per spot though. Instead, Google takes the lowest bid, and still puts that for the lowest, least visible spot… but then increases each next highest level spot by an incremental amount (say $0.20). This means, if there are 5 spots, the 5th spot would be $3, the 4th spot would be $3.20, the 3rd $3.40, 2nd $3.60, and finally the 1st spot would be $3.80, even though the original bidder said they’d be willing to pay $6.00 per click.

A quality score is another way that Google makes sure you aren’t just buying irrelevant keywords that have little to nothing to do with your landing pages. The quality score, rated from low to high quality, will analyze how closely the keywords you pay for match your advertisement, and how closely your advertisement matches your landing pages, and give it a rating. This method ensures that companies in a completely different field aren’t bidding high to show up on results pages that are completely irrelevant to the search. The way bidding and quality scores can work together is if you bid higher but have a lower score compared to someone who bid lower and has a higher score, the company with a higher score will get the top position because their ad is more relevant to the search query.

Here are 3 different types of keyword matching:

  1. Exact Match: your ad will only be displayed if the search query includes the exact keyword(s) with words in the exact order.
  2. Phrase Match: your ad will be displayed if the search query includes the same order of words, but may also contain additional words.
  3. Broad Match: your ad will be displayed if the search query includes any or some combination of the words in your keyword, in any given order.

To ensure that costs don’t get too high through your PPC campaign, you want to set a daily budget for how much you will spend. You can tell Google how much you want them to spend each day per ad, and they won’t exceed that limit. You can come up with different budgets for different ads as well! Also, to guarantee all your advertisement expenditure isn’t spent up in just a couple hours, you can ask Google to spread your spending out as the day goes on. Google might also not be able to spend the total amount you give it per day even though they will definitely try. In order to get as close as Google can to spending your daily budget, you must have effective keywords and an effective ad copy. When you create your ad, you are given character limits per line. 25 characters allotted to the title of your advertisement, 37 for the display URL, 35 for your first description, and another 35 for the second.

Just like all other digital marketing methods, you’re able to measure your paid search engine marketing through various metrics. Here are the 4 you can use:

  1. Impressions: one single instance when your ad is displayed through a user typing your keyword into their query.
  2. Clicks: an instance when  viewer actually clicks on your advertisement when it’s been displayed on their results page.
  3. Conversions: this is an instance when a viewer saw your ad, clicked on it, then took the action that you intended them to take when they were brought to your landing page.
  4. Spend: the amount of money you have spent on your campaign so far.

These 4 metrics can help you understand where you might be going wrong in your ad campaign, and where you’re going right. It’s natural that the number of impressions is higher than clicks, and number of clicks higher than conversions. But something important to remember is the higher your percentage metrics (impressions, clicks, conversion) and the lower your cost metrics, the better your ad campaign is performing!

Wordstream has made a great article (not to mention it includes a rad infographic) detailing Pay-Per-Click Marketing as well as an article about What Kinds of Businesses Should Use PPC (with an even cooler infographic), and here are 5 Pay-Per-Click Mistakes That Can Cost You Money!


Search Engine Optimization & Link Building

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Google was the first website that pops into your mind when you think of a search engine. Yahoo! and Bing are also popular search engines, while Ask Jeeves is most definitely a thing of the past. Nonetheless, they all perform the same task. Simply put, all you have to do is find the search bar, enter your query, hit ‘enter’ and BOOM, you’re given instant results. Unless your internet provider is really slacking, or your WiFi connection is less than decent, you really do get your results instantly, and that’s one of the best things about a search engine. It does all the hard work for you – literally all you have to do is type in a few keywords and there you have it. Search engines do a great job of filtering out the websites that don’t match your search criteria well enough, and provides you with only the top notch sites that match your criteria the best. Could you imagine how hard it would be to find the perfect guacamole recipe or how to find the nearest athletic club in a new city without search engines? (Yeah, yeah, you can use a recipe book or make a couple calls, but you get the point I’m trying to make.)

Ever wonder how your company or just yourself can optimize these search engines in an effective way? Check out how.

An important part of SEO is understanding what it is your target market is looking for. You need your website to provide solutions to problems, answers to questions, and a result for keywords. In order to know your audience, you need to understand the 3 different types of search queries they’re likely going to make.

  1. “Do” : this is a transactional query, and likely means they want to do something, such as buy a concert ticket.
  2. “Know” : this is an informational query, and likely means they need to find out the name of that song they can’t get our of their head, or the best Chinese food in the city!
  3. “Go” : this is a navigation query, and likely means they want to go somewhere on the internet, such as a job board or to Twitter.

Inbound marketing and inbound sales are all tied into search engine optimization, which is exactly why your company needs to be focusing on this aspect of their marketing plan. When customers are able to come to you, the job of inbound marketing has been done, and most of it wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t for your webpage showing up on the top of their screen in a Google search.

As with any kind of technology, problems can arise. Search engines are highly sophisticated, but they aren’t perfect. It’s important to make sure you use the common language your target market will use in a search, so that the search engine has an easier time finding your website. Keeping it simple is often the best route for this. There are also certain words that have variation the way they are spelled such as “favorite” and “favourite.” Make sure you’re fully aware of which one your audience is going to use, and that you are associated as a result with it!

The way the front page of a search engine results list works is that there are usually 10 or so results per page. These websites are put in a ranking order and the higher up on the list your page is, the better click-through rate you’re going to receive. Generally speaking, the top 3 spots get the most action, while anything after that will just progressively see less and less traffic. If you get nothing else out of this post, make sure you know that you want to be in the top three!! Search engine rankings are extremely competitive, and it’s no wonder why. The competitive nature of search engine rankings will never change, even as the internet itself and other technologies adapt and change.

Back to keywords… you’ll know you’re getting the right kind of visitors when you are using the same keywords that your target market is typing into the search bar. You need to be sure that your keywords are compatible with the content on your website. When you know that its relevant, the next step is checking out your competition. Type in these keywords to a search engine and see what the top few links are and browse around. If, say, your website isn’t able to rank high enough for your keywords, you can buy test traffic through Google Adwords and see how well it converts. You’ll be able to track impressions and conversion rates over the course of 200-300 clicks or more! Adding a dollar value to each keyword can help you see just how useful those words are and get an estimate of the profit you’re able to make because of those words – and who doesn’t like profit?

Search engines know exactly how to filter out webpages that don’t satisfy the needs of the searcher. Usually, the websites that get ranked highest aren’t just the “best fit,” they’re also easy to use and navigate, provide direct and relevant information to the query, are professional, and deliver high quality and credible content.

Links are another useful tool when it comes to search engine optimization and digital marketing. Link analysis is a way for search engines to understand how pages can be related to one another and in what ways. In order to increase your search rankings and have great overall search engine optimization, you need to utilize links and learn how to build them in order to gain more traffic. A hyperlink is a way for users to navigate between different websites on the internet. Sounds simple enough! Search engines will use these links to crawl between pages on your website, or between entirely different websites. When your website has relevant links embedded in your content, you’re able to increase your ranking in a search engine! Links are what led Google to be the leading search engine over the last 15 or so years.

Not only will effective link building help increase your SEO ranking and ultimately your profits, but it will also help you build connections and hopefully meaningful relationships with others in your field. You can also gain referral traffic, sort of like a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” type of deal. Great link building can also help establish your brand and differentiate it from the rest.

In order for someone else to link your website on their own (a natural, editorial link), you need to give them a good reason to do so. And this all comes back to having remarkable content that is worthy of being shared. These kinds of links are highly valued because there’s really no incentive for the person to link your page. They do it because they recognize your content as needing to be shared, and deserving more of an audience. This can take lots of time to accomplish, but like I just said, it’s so highly valued. Another method of link building is through doing it manually. Typically, smaller start-up businesses will have their SEO do this job, and it entails calling bloggers and website owners, and asking them yourself if they would link to your page. Again, you still have to give them a good reason to link your page, and you also need to be contacting people that are actually relevant to what your webpage is about.

Forbes published an article about their 4 Tips for Hiring the Right SEO Firm, (cough, cough, perfect example of a natural editorial link), and here’s what agencies are considered to be the best at SEO, along with how much you should be spending on your SEO efforts!